Going On the Account: You Think This Is Bad…?

When I started working on RED JENNY, I had a few ideas as to what one would find in a municipality that’s in default and broken.

 

 

Then I read in today’s TIMES about Jefferson County, Alabama, and I’m starting to think the Buffalo of a time our children will know better got off easy…

 

 

My sympathies to the folks in Birmingham.  As bad as things in Buffalo and Niagara Falls got at times in the last few decades, it never got quite that bad.

 

Well, OK, yeah, there was the Rainbow Centre Mall, an effort to play catch-up with Niagara Falls’ better off neighbors on the other side of the border.  It was a big project opened in 1982 to try and bring people back into downtown, complete with a year-round winter garden that had hothouse plants you could walk among, which on a snowy Western New York winter’s day was wondrous and gave you a serious break from the five months of chill and ice.  It had plenty of places to eat, relax, and offered a place to park on this side while you walked across the Rainbow Bridge to hit up Clifton Hill on the other side.

 

Which in the end is probably what killed it; everyone would park there, maybe hit the currency exchange first in the mall, then go over to Canada for the day, and then come back and drive away without putting too many dollars into the complex.

 

I went a lot during the 80s, watching as the complex that started as this bright colored vibrant project got more shopworn and seedy year after year.  By the time my son was born and we went there for the day as a family in 1999 we got this distinct unease walking through the halls on the way to the bridge, seeing only two businesses left.  It seemed alien to me, a place that had bustled with so much commerce having become a tomb where good intentions killed by bad planning had come to be interned.

 

Soon after the place closed up for good, its decay documented by urban explorers.  As bad as my last visit there had been, I look at the two sets of pictures and shake my head even more so.  I can’t look at a show like THE WALKING DEAD now and not think about the Rainbow Center; and also how clean everything in post-Zombiepocalyptic Georgia is compared with what plain ol’ urban neglect does to a place…

 

In some ways, the Rainbow Centre could be looked back on as one of those inspirational pieces of back story to give the other work perspective.  Seeing the decay as it wore down the complex, as intent met inertia and motivation gave way to malaise, is something that finally found expression in a work I did and served as a model on which to inspire and expand.

 

And for the first time in a while, the job stayed local and didn’t move south like Trico Products did.  Sorry Birmingham, but this one stayed here…

 

I suppose I could go on about what happened with Trico too, but I’m going to try one of those “long tail marketing strategies” offers:  If you want me to continue about connections between the current novel and experiences with Western New York’s decline, look me up and offer me a round or two.  A live author appearance, a little company, you could do worse…

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